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September 2015
It’s obvious that different cultures will approach concepts differently, but there is a fundamental chasm between the way that the term “smart cities” is understood in the West and in the East.

Specifically, in Europe, North America and Latin America, creating a smart city tends to mean adapting already existing cities to be smarter; and "smart" encompasses not only more advanced technology, but also making cities that work better for everyone who lives and works in them. Asian smart cities, on the other hand, often focus on building new, super-high-tech cities from scratch — and more often than not, they are cities built for an exclusively well-to-do citizenry.

This month, in addition to other smart cities news, we’ll look at some controversy around India’s high-tech urban ambitions, learn about Russia’s first stand-alone smart city and see how Latin America is planning to follow a more European model.

— Emily Liedel
       
USING NATURE’S TOOLS
Around 450 meters of the Liesingbach river that runs through Vienna is being converted back to it’s natural state, which means sloping river banks with trees instead of something that resembles a concrete drainage canal, Wien Smart City reports  (German). Not only will this make the stretch of river in Vienna more inviting for residents, it will also attract native plants and animals and provide better protection from flooding.
KEEPING THE POOR OUT OF INDIAN SMART CITIES
India is starting a major push towards creating 100 smart cities around the country. But at whose expense? A brochure handed out at a Smart Cities conference earlier this year outlined that the police would need to intervene to ensure that poor people — some of whom will have lost their farmland so that the smart city could be build — do not enter the area and do not take advantage of the modern infrastructure, Global Voices reports. That is not a vision for a smart city that most Western urban planners would endorse.
NEW CITY TO RISE NEAR MOSCOW
Russia’s first smart city project is about to break ground 10 kilometers from the capital. The new, high-tech metropolis named "Mortongrad Putilkovo" will be completed around 2030, Komsomolskaya Pravda reports (Russian).
SPOTLIGHT GOTHENBURG 
Gothenburg is Sweden’s second-largest city and, according to the most recent Europe-wide award, the most accessible to people with disabilities in Europe. The city has made accessibility in housing, public places and education a top municipal priority. It has created mobile apps that allow disabled people and their friends and relatives to search for properly equipped playgrounds, as well as comprehensive inventory of all the housing and public transportation options that are accessible for the elderly and disabled.
DIGITAL DREAMS IN COSTA RICA
Although Costa Rica still has a long way to go before it can claim even one city with modern digital conveniences, it is looking to emulate the efforts in Colombia to provide citizens with digital ways to interact with the government, free internet access and open data, El Financero reports (Spanish). Cities in Costa Rica see Medellin, Colombia, as the standard to aspire to — although in most cases the progress towards a truly digital city is still moving far too slowly.
Elsewhere in Latin America, other cities are looking to the same Medellin for inspiration: In Lima, Peru, for example, officials also try to replicate the way the Colombian city optimizes its resources, allows traffic to flow more smoothly, uses less energy to light the streets and minimizes water usage, Gestion.pr reports (Spanish).
INTRODUCING LI-FI
We all know that Wi-Fi is a way to get wireless data transferred to our phones, computers and watches. But a small number of cities are now taking advantage of Li-Fi, using light to transmit information, specifically through LED lamps, Slate.fr reports (French). There are several pilot projects to use light instead of Wi-Fi. In one hospital in southern France, Li-Fi has already replaced Wi-Fi for data transmission due to concerns that infants in the hospital were exposed to excessive amounts of electromagnetic waves, and the light can be blocked from certain areas more easily than Wi-Fi can. The technology is also being tested at supermarkets in Lille and Lyon and one small town in southern France has even replaced its streetlights with Li-Fi capable LEDs.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0.07 µT
Average household exposure to electromagnetic fields in Europe is about 0.07 µT; in North America, it is about 0.11 µT, according to the World Health Organization. Just how bad that is for us — especially for children — is a matter of debate, but most governments have upper limits for how much is safe in public places like hospitals.
CHINESE HAPPINESS
According to a recent study by eight Chinese internet giants, Shanghai is the happiest city in the country, China.org reports (French). The result was based on Shanghai’s progress towards becoming a smart city, the residents’ high level of social contact and the relatively good air quality for a major Chinese city.
VISITING HISTORY THROUGH THE FUTURE
Next time you visit Montreal, you can explore the city with a smartphone app that brings important events and characters from the city’s history alive, infopresse.com reports (French). The app uses geolocalization (and Montreal’s free Wi-Fi in the historic part of the city) to play out scenes from the city’s past.
WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Ethiopia is an unlikely poster child for the renewable revolution, but the African country has set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse emissions, and is taking real steps toward reaching them. Read more from Le Monde/Worldcrunch.
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